Chips Moman, Hit-Making Producer and Songwriter, Dies at 79
By WILLIAM GRIMES
JUNE 14, 2016
Elvis Presley and Chips Moman at American Sound Studio in Memphis, Tenn. Sony Music
Chips Moman, a producer and songwriter who helped define the Memphis sound in soul music in the 1960s, generated dozens of pop, soul and country hits and helped resuscitate Elvis Presley’s career in the late ’60s, died on Monday in LaGrange, Ga. He was 79.
The cause was complications of emphysema, said Donny Turner, a friend.
Mr. Moman was a session guitarist at the renowned Gold Star Studios in Los Angeles in the late 1950s when he teamed up with the founders of Stax Records in Memphis, Jim Stewart and Estelle Axton. At Gold Star, he had paid close attention to the engineers and producers as they worked, and at Stax, he applied his newly learned lessons, producing Carla Thomas’s Top 10 hit “Gee Whiz (Look at His Eyes)” in 1960 and William Bell’s “You Don’t Miss Your Water” in 1961.
After a dispute with Stax, Mr. Moman created American Sound Studio with settlement money from a lawsuit against his former employers and assembled a dynamic house band, known informally as the Memphis Boys. Between 1965 and 1971, the studio accounted for more than 120 records on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart, beginning with the Gentrys’ “Keep On Dancing.”
Artists who recorded at American Sound included the Box Tops (“The Letter” and “Cry Like a Baby”), Neil Diamond (“Sweet Caroline”), B. J. Thomas (“Hooked on a Feeling”), Joe Tex (“I Gotcha”), Dusty Springfield (“Son of a Preacher Man”) and Wilson Pickett (“I’m in Love” and “I’m a Midnight Mover”).
With Dan Penn, Mr. Moman wrote the soul classics “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man” for Aretha Franklin and “The Dark End of the Street” for James Carr. He also played lead guitar on Ms. Franklin’s first breakout hit, “I Never Loved a Man (the Way I Love You).”
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Perhaps his greatest triumph as a producer came in 1969, when Presley, who had not had a hit record since 1965, did an end run around his controlling manager, Col. Tom Parker, and decided to record at American Sound, where Mr. Moman tapped into Presley’s roots in country and blues music.
The sessions yielded four hit singles — “In the Ghetto,” “Suspicious Minds,” “Don’t Cry Daddy” and “Kentucky Rain” — and two career-defining platinum albums: “From Elvis in Memphis, ” which The Daily Telegraph of London in 2009 called “the pinnacle of Presley’s midcareer return to glory,” and “From Memphis to Vegas/From Vegas to Memphis,” a mixture of live and studio recordings.